Southampton Athletics Club celebrated first place in the Senior & Veterans Men’s Team competition at the Hampshire Cross Country Championships on Saturday. It was pretty much the only non-professional sporting event to take place in area on Saturday, with hundreds of athletes descending on the annual competition. With most local football, rugby and hockey cancelled, the event at Eastleigh’s Fleming Park defied the odds and went ahead, despite a deluge of water smothering the original finish line.
The line was moved to higher ground and saw runners from across the region and the Channel Islands compete in the first, and one of the biggest, cross-country events of the 2014 calendar.
Southampton romped home to win the championships for the third year in a row around the 12km course. Despite having no runners in the top five, the City’s men came home with 106 points – 26 head of Guernsey.
Meanwhile, in the age group events, Southampton’s Under-17 Mahamed Mahamed (20.44) romped to gold in the 6.2km race, ahead of fellow club runner George Butler (21.24) in bronze position and Guernsey’s Daniel Ray (21.15) in silver place. Stephen Simpson came home in second (31.54) in the 12km Under-20 event and Luke Powell was third in the 4,350m Under-15s (15.14). But the entire event was very close to not happening at all. “We had to delay everything until the last minute, the programme and organisation had to wait until we knew where we were able to put the route of the course,” championship secretary Pam Rogers said. “Everything was on hold but we made the decision on Thursday to go ahead whatever the weather.”
Despite the conditions, which swamped the majority of Fleming Park, the full programme of runs went ahead.
“It’s wonderful, there was a drop off of people attending but it wasn’t as much as I expected to be, which is very positive,” Rogers said.
Following the flooding of the lower area of the course, which included the finish line, a new final straight had to be mapped out as a torrent of water submerged the planned route. “We knew we had to move it to higher ground,” Rogers said. “It has affected the whole infrastructure of the day but we got round it.”